Myrrh – A Healing Resin of Old

myrrh resin pic via

myrrh resin pic via

Myrrh. Whenever I say this oil in my head it sounds like merr-er-er. Just like Steve Martin’s character in the movie “The Man with Two Brains”, Dr Hfuhruhurr. I can’t help it. I’ve created a permanent synapse in my brain, that pronounces myrrh like Hfurhruhurr (except with an M). I don’t really use myrrh very much and maybe this is the reason.

I do however, use myrrh as an oil of abundance – a little goes a long way. Just like frankincense, myrrh is a resin in its natural state and then it’s steam distilled to produce an essential oil. In all bottles of myrrh that I’ve owned, before too long the cap is often stuck to the bottle with the dried oil – it wants to revert back to its original form. This never happens with frankincense which is quite a thin oil. Look how similar the trees are – they are from the same family, Burseraceae, but a different genus. Myrrh is from Commiphora, and frankincense is from the Boswellia genus.

myrrh tree pic via

myrrh tree pic via

frankincense tree pic via

frankincense tree pic via

Myrrh is native to parts of Africa and still revered as a great healer. We know of stories in the bible which tells us that this resin has been used for centuries. Like many of the older plants and oils, myrrh is also noted in ancient Egypt as an important ingredient in the holy incense kyphi, and the temples of Jerusalem in the incense of ketoret. I’ve just written about spikenard (see my article Spikenard – an Essential Oil with a Rich History and a Heady Scent), which appears in the same texts and was also an ingredient in these ceremonial incenses.

With its amazing qualities of healing and preservation you can see why the Egyptians used myrrh in embalming. If it’s hardening on the lid of my oil bottle then it’s working that way when embalming a body!

Egyptian mummy

Egyptian mummy

Myrrh is a great wound healer and works really well with gum disease and mouth ulcers. I would use myrrh in an oil blend with a client to add dimension to the scent and to address fears of lack, and a general feeling of being unsupported. I love myrrh to stimulate healing from past hurts and to help someone gain strength to continue in life.

A drop of oil can be essential

A drop of myrrh may be all you need

In aromatherapy today myrrh is used for –

* gum disease

* deep cracks n the heels

* chronic wounds that wont heal

* to reduce mucous in coughs and bronchitis

* as a meditative oil to connect to spirit

* to help with period pain and for use in childbirth

Embrace myrrh as an oil to support you in your connection to the divine. Be sparing with myrrh in your oil formulations as a little goes a long way.

copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Spikenard – an Essential Oil with a Rich History and a Heady Scent

Nardostachys grandiflora or Nardostachys jatamansi pic via

Nardostachys grandiflora or Nardostachys jatamansi pic via

In a recent article I included spikenard in one of my recipes – see The Hierophant – A Tarot Card Reading with Essential Oils. It is commonly called spikenard, nard and the Indian name jatamansi (which is what I call it in my mind).

When I posted the link on my Facebook page one of my friends read the article (thanks Jason), and wanted to know more about this oil. My brief comments went something like this:

It’s an oil of the bible and the story is that Mary used this to bathe Jesus feet, and it was said to cost as much as a year’s wages. It has history in other religions and appears connected to the first and second Temples of Jerusalem. Used in Ayurveda it’s great for healing and a deep connection to spirit.

So that is a quick look at the oil and I thought I’d elaborate because it’s so amazing. This is a strong oil and belongs to the same family as Valerian, Valerianaceae. I must say I’ve never used Valerian oil in my practice, as even the scent of Valerian tea is super strong and if you’ve ever taken an herbal sleep formula with Valerian, you can smell it as soon as you open the bottle!

So spikenard has the same deep, base, intensity that valerian has, and also the vetiver root (even though vetiver is more like a grass). As with vetiver oil, the rhizomes of the spikenard plant hold the essential oil. It’s sweet, heavy and almost syrupy as it flares out of the bottle. One or two drops is enough in any formula to invoke the meta-physical properties of the oil, and to bring an oil blend together and give it substance.

spikenard flower - pic via

spikenard flower – pic via

As with many essential oils, the plants have been used for centuries for both healing and  religious and spiritual ceremonies. We are relying on ancient texts to illuminate us on the uses of these plants and also the scholars who translate them. It is always fascinating to me that thousands of years ago great healers knew what the plants were good for even though they had no scientific means of measuring their components. So is this intuition, trial and error, or a combo of both? However we look at it, it is a gift from the universe and our modern medicine would be nowhere today without this ancient knowledge.

There is so much to write about here I’ll just touch on the most interesting references to this oil. Said to have been used in the Temple of Solomon, the First Temple of Jerusalem (circa 800 BC)  and the Second temple (circa 530 BC onward to about 70 BC), in the incense called Ketoret mentioned n the Hebrew Bible and other texts. Ketoret is also very similar to the Egyptian incense called kyphi too which was recorded in the Pyramid texts dating back to 2300BC. Also talked about in the Bible, as mentioned above, this plant was used in Greek and Roman healing and ceremonies, and even used in medieval cookery. And as jatamansi, it’s been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years too, especially for grounding Vata, helping digestion and and as a heart tonic.

spikenard - pic via

spikenard – pic via

Ok so what is spikenard used for in modern Aromatherapy?

* as a calming tonic for someone freaking out (as is valerian and vetiver)

* to induce sleep

* to act as a calming digestive tonic

* as a wound healing oil by acting as a anti-bacterial agent and also an anti-inflammatory

* as an oil for meditation to induce a soothing, calming energy to connect to higher consciousness

* as a base oil to bring an oil blend together

* to stimulate hormone production

* for mature and dry skins

When you use this oil, use it sparingly like you would do with Vetiver. The secrets of the universe are encoded in every drop of oil!

copyright suzannerbanks 2013

The Hierophant – A Tarot Card Reading with Essential Oils


The Hierophant - V in the Rider-Waite Deck

The Hierophant – V in the Rider-Waite Deck

I must say when I was learning about the tarot I never really got a strong vibe for this card when it came up in a reading. Perhaps it was the religious imagery I didn’t like, even though the main figure seems quite kind and placid. The monks in the foreground are being blessed by the priest, holding a triple cross – religious overload! As with all tarot cards there are many symbols embedded in the image that spark reactions and hint to meanings of the card in general.

graduation - pic via

graduation – pic via

Anyway, The Hierophant is here to let us know that if we are studying, learning anything in any form, we now have the power to take it to the next level. It could also mean we need a deeper understanding of our spirituality and this could be the sign we need to take that step. This card also represents marriage ordained by the church and religious elders.

Are you being challenged by an authority figure or feeling controlled by an institution? If so, The Hierophant will show up helping you to release your feelings of being blocked by others. Maybe this is a time to keep your continuing spiritual practice (going deeper within) and allow others – who appear to have authority – continue on their path. It may also indicate that this is a time not to rock the boat, but to abide by the rules and laws that govern us. It indicates the opposite to having free will and being totally creative.

pic via

pic via

It is a great card to meditate on now for those who are demanding marriage equality. We need balance with the relationship between the people, those in power, and our growing need for a deeper spiritual connection between us all. So I suppose this card is also about fairness and equality.

What essential oils could embody this card? The issues are fairness, marriage, deeper spirituality and the balance of power. Hmmmm.


Just use any mist bottle you can find

Just use any mist bottle you can find

1. Personal Aura Cleansing Mist & Room Mist

In a 50ml mist bottle filled with water add 25 drops of oil

“Will You Same Sex Marry Me”

Propose now, why wait?

Sandalwood Indian       8 drops

Petitgrain                       10 drops

Ylang Ylang                    4 drops

Rose Geranium           3 drops


“My Own Mantra”

Release the bonds of traditional religions and find a deeper spirituality –

Cypress                    10 drops

Orange                    10 drops

Cedarwood Atlas    5 drops


“I’ll Agree to Disagree”

Follow the rules this time to make it easier –

Lavender      8 drops

Ginger          8 drops

Lime              8 drops

Vetiver          1 drop


Take a huge whiff to change your focus in seconds

Take a huge whiff to change your focus in seconds


2. Open The Bottle and Take a Huge Whiff

German Chamomile – instant relaxation

Palmarosa – being flexible with inflexible rules

Spikenard – a deep connection to spirituality

Juniper – release the old and unwanted



Happy blending and remember to use your intention when you are creating your formulas. See my article about intention.




Cedarwood Atlas – An Ancient Wood with a Modern Scent

Cedarwood atlas - Cedrus atlantica

Cedarwood atlas – Cedrus atlantica

In Aromatherapy we use a few cedarwoods –

Cedrus atlantica           = Cedarwood Atlas

Juniperus virginiana     = Cedarwood Virginian

Cedrus deodora           = Cedarwood Himalyan

When I first started practicing I didn’t really use this oil a lot – I preferred Cedarwood Virginian. Years ago when I was creating a range for a new clinic in Sydney, I was inspired to incorporate this oil by the Herbalist and sales manager. She encouraged me to use Cedarwood atlas and described the scent to me as being reminiscent of sandalwood. She also suggested I could use it in place of sandalwood as the Sandalwood industry was under pressure and prices had tripled within years.

So embraced Cedarwood atlas and while I don’t necessarily use it as s replacement for sandalwood I certainly love to use it frequently. It is a true cedarwood and has an interesting history.

The Atlas Mountains in Morocco

The Atlas Mountains in Morocco, map originally created by Daniel Feher of Free World Maps. Original map can by found here

It is part of the Pinaceae family of trees and is still considered to be a viable tree with no concern for its life here on earth. It hails from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and is also farmed for its wood and oil in other regions.

The rich history of cedarwood most probably relates to Lebanon cedarwood which is Cedrus libani and found in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Cypress and surrounding areas. It is also from the Pinaceae family and I would assume that the two are quite similar and they both would have been used for ancient rituals and traditions; in Egyptian times, in building the Temples of Jersualem and all the ancient majesty and mystery that comes with them. Phoenicaians and Egytians built their boats with this wood, and the resin was used to treat illness and mummify Phaoroahs. There are also other cedars in these areas that belong to the Cupressaceae family (the cypresses), and have also been used over thousands of years in spiritual practice.

A drop of oil can be essential

A drop of oil can be essential

The oil is steam distilled using the wood and twigs and currently in Aromatherapy Cedarwood atlas is used for-

* respiratory ailments – coughs, colds, bronchitis as it is a great expectorant

* in a sitz bath to address kidney and bladder including cystitis – it’s an astringent oil

* as a tonic for stress and anxiety (yes we say this about many oils so it goes to prove a few drops of distilled nature really can change your focus and make you feel better)

* as an astringent for oily skin and on the flip side to also treat dry and flaky conditions like dry scalp, dandruff and also to ease symptoms of psoriasis

Abundance is a state of being

Abundance is a state of being

I love to use this oil to stimulate connection to spirit and to inspire acknowledgement of the abundance all around us. If the resins of this tree were used in the mummification process  to help souls live for ever after death, I see it as a sign that our abundance is ever flowing in all states of existence.


copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Frankincense is the Scent of Truth

frankincense tree and resin

frankincense tree and resin


As I finished a treatment last week and I was writing the ingredients of the formula on a label, I said to myself “frankincense’, “frank – incense”. Frank, incense. The scent of truth. I had an immediate understanding of the entire universe all at once.

Frankincense (Boswellia carteri), has been used for centuries in spiritual rituals and is still used today in Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. It makes an appearance in the bible as a precious gift brought to Jesus and is found in the Middle East and Africa. According to Wikipedia

“Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 years.[6] A mural depicting sacks of frankincense traded from the Land of Punt adorns the walls of the temple of ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who died in circa 1458 BC.”

It’s also know as oilbanum referring to the process of “milking” the tree for the resin. There are many romantic stories of old about this resin and oil, and it is also linked to to the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem where it was used as a temple offering and incense.

It’s an unusual looking tree, and it is tapped for the resin, which is then steam distilled into an essential oil. The resin droplets that emerge from the tree are called “tears”. The myrrh tree actually looks quite similar.

frankincense resin

frankincense resin

You can buy the resin to burn on charcoal too, and it emits a scented smoke that is entrancing to say the least.

frankincense resin burning on charcoal

frankincense resin burning on charcoal

Frankincense is the oil of breathing deeply and slowly. When you click into a rhythm of deep breathing it not only relaxes you, but also invokes a state of peacefulness and calm – just like when you meditate. Is it any wonder that churches use this resin? It is employed in the church to entrance the congregation into a type of meditation or trance, to access God and higher energies. When we connect with our spirit, we are seeing the truth in all things. We are connecting with the everything else in the universe at the same time – the oneness of all things. This is the truth. This is honesty. When we are being honest with ourselves we are being “frank” and open.

Frankincense has also been used to heal wounds by promoting cell growth and this also makes its a great facial oil. Most aromatherapy book will say that Frankincense is wonderful for wrinkled mature skin to help reduce signs of aging so I often use this in a face mask or add it to rosehip oil for a daily face moisturiser.

Here are some recipes for Frankincense:

For an oil burner or diffuser to help you relax into a divine stateessential:

“Sweet Silence”

Frankincense   15 drops

Orange              8 drops

Cinnamon         2 drops


For an oil blend for your body to help you relax – especially great around the lungs and chest. Into 3 teaspoons add


Frankincense   5 drops

Lavender         3 drops


For a steam inhalation for congested lungs, or if you find it hard to catch your breath:

In a bowl put 3 drops of Frankincense then fill with boiling water and inhale through your mouth (cover yourself and the bowl with a towel).

steam inhalation

steam inhalation


For a face mask:

In a couple of teaspoons of clay (any colour of your choice) add 3 drops of Frankincense and a little floral water (or just plain water) to form a smooth paste to apply all over you face and neck. Rest for 15 minutes then rinse off. Beautiful! You look 10 years younger already!


Seekers of the truth – this oil is for you!

Remember to treat yourself first then everyone will benefit.


copyright suzannerbanks 2013